How TikTok (抖音) Became The Most Popular App in The World?

The short-form video app TikTok, has become the latest mobile internet fad in the world, hitting the top of the Apple App Store’s global non-game download chart in 2018.

Douyin, named TikTok outside China, is a short video and music video app that was launched by news app Jinri Toutiao founder Zhang Yiming in 2016.

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It’s used to produce and browse quick-fire video clips, in a similar way to how Vine used to operate before that platform was shut down. 

But one of TikTok’s key differentiators has been its editing functions, which have tapped into young users’ preferences by adding a whole host of add-ons, music themes, animations, and more.

In just one year, the App almost quadrupled its number of monthly installs from 20 million to 75 million.

TikTok has been downloaded 1 billion times across Android and iOS

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Why has TikTok been so successful?

With the increasing success of TikTok, social analysts analyzed conversations around the app during 2 weeks comparing the three top live streaming platforms. Over 75,000 social media posts mentioned TikTok, Kuaishou and Meipai. Incredibly, 80% of the posts were about TikTok.

Success factor #1: TikTok targets a young but diverse audience

Although all three apps are successful, they are used by slightly different groups of people. Kuaishou’s user are distributed across all ages, Meipai mainly targets younger females, while TikTok’s users are between the age of 18 and 34.

Young adults express themselves more on social media, and have more time to spend on video sharing. This is one of the reasons that TikTok is more popular than the other two apps.

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Success factor #2: investors with eyes on the international market

While other video sharing apps fight over the domestic Chinese market, TikTok set its ambitions on both domestic and international markets.

TikTok is owned by Toutiao (China’s massive digital media group), which accumulated hundreds of millions of users before TikTok launched. To maximize adoption, Toutiao used its powerful recommendation engine and a gigantic database of consumer behaviors and preferences.

Toutiao further accelerated TikTok’s growth with the acquisition of Musical.ly in 2017, the dominant music-oriented video streaming site, which was popular even among teenagers in the United States. Benefiting from this combination of both old and fresh blood, TikTok quickly grew into the video sharing giant it is today.

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Success factor #3: short format, easy user interface, and lots of customization options

Videos on TikTok are limited to 15 seconds, while videos on most other video sharing apps are much longer; for example, Meipei allows videos up to five minutes long.

This limit allows TikTok users both to view and post faster than on other video sharing apps. Given the fragmentation of moments of consumption, shorter content also results in a higher frequency of use.

Though it limits clip length, TikTok provides users with a large selection of up-to-date background music, filming filters, and always changing stickers that make authors more comical, attractive, or exciting.

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Success factor #4: built-in marketing tactics attract consumer brands

Following the footsteps of older social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat, TikTok also provides corporate accounts for brands. These accounts allow brands to publish directly to their followers to build brand affinity and engagement, to share promotions, and to extend integrated media campaigns.

For example, TikTok ’s ‘Challenges’ feature allows brands to use celebrities and other influencers to directly inspire user content creation, resulting in a content rich-environment, not just comments and forwards.

The most famous ‘Challenges’ include ‘TikTok course’ and ‘City catwalk’, which were created by hotpot restaurant Haidilao, and fashion brand Michael Kors:

Another example is Adidas, who’s marketing strategy on TikTok is more focused than many fashion brands’ on Chinese social media.

Adidas uses TikTok mainly for its sub-brand AdidasNeo, which shares a target audience with the TikTok user base. AdidasNeo works with celebrities on TikTok that appeal to this audience, such as Dili Reba and Yiyang Qianxi.

Other well-known brands including Audi, Xiaomi, and Airbnb also use TikTok as a marketing platform due to its ability to foster highly relatable and viral UGC, and for the potential for brands or campaigns can become popular almost overnight.

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TikTok benefits from a solid foundation thanks to its popularity in China and the strong capital backing it (ByteDance is valued at $75 billion USD).

The key of TikTok’s successful international expansion lies in its generous and rightful investments, especially the full acquisition of Musical.ly which has been proven to be a major contributor of TikTok’s rapid expansion, and great sensitivity to national culture and local consumers tastes.

However, TikTok needs to improve its privacy protection and ensure long-term engagement/stickiness in order to pursue its global expansion.

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Sources: Walk the Chat, WeChat link influence

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